Nature, Race, and the Making of a Canadian Icon
In the summer of 2007, the CBC declared the canoe to be one of the Seven Wonders of Canada. More than an ancient means of transportation and trade, it has come to represent a vision of Canada that encompasses our past and present. It stands for cultural tradition, commerce, recreation, nature, and even political protest.In Canoe Nation, Bruce Erickson chronicles the story of the canoe in the Canadian imagination. He argues that the canoe’s sentimental power has come about through a set of narratives that attempt to legitimize a particular vision of Canada – including this country’s history of colonialism and industrialization – and explores how the canoe shifted from being an industrial-economic vehicle in the fur trade to its contemporary place as a recreational vessel. From Alexander Mackenzie to Grey Owl to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the canoe has been overvalued as a connection to the “nature” of Canada. Examining voyageur re-enactments, turn-of-the-century sportsman stories, and the subsequent “greening” of the canoe, this book shows how this symbol authenticates Canada’s reputation as a tolerant, environmentalist nation, even when there is evidence to the contrary. Ultimately, the stories we tell about the canoe need to be understood as moments in the ever-contested field of cultural politics.
This book will have wide appeal to scholars in the humanities and social sciences, especially in the disciplines of Canadian studies, cultural geography, environmental studies, and Native studies; it will also appeal to a more general audience that has an interest in these subject areas.
Canoe nation explores how the canoe is not only an important object of Canada’s understanding of itself as a nation, but also a vital and changing practice that is key to historically specific configurations of economics, landscapes, and modes of governance and citizenship. Ranging from the fur trade to celebrity wilderness paddling and tracing complex connections among economic, colonial, pedagogical, recreational, and environmental desires, Erickson’s brilliantly original analysis shows that the canoe is, quite literally, a vehicle of power in the Canadian national landscape.
In this book, Erickson places the canoe firmly in the middle of timely and thorny debates in Canadian cultural politics and makes us rethink our histories and present actions with new and provocative insights. It is a significant intervention in Canadian studies and other related fields including cultural and historical geography, environmental studies, and Aboriginal studies.
Preface: Canoeing Matters
Introduction: Canoes and the Nature of Canada
1 Pedagogical Canoes: “Forced Intimacy,” Suffering, and Remembering National History
2 I Fish, Therefore I Am: Recreational Canoeing and Wilderness Travel at the Turn of the Century
3 Regimes of Whiteness: Wilderness and the Production of Abstract Space from Seton to Grey Owl
4 Recreational Nationalism: Canoeing as Political Activism
Conclusion: Future Politics and the Production of the Nation
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